Focusing on What is Important to Eastern Washington in 2008

This week, we returned to the ‘other Washington’ to start the 2008 legislative session.  During my few weeks at home in Eastern Washington, I was once again reminded of what an honor it is to serve as your Congresswoman.  As we start the new session, I want to continue to build on the work we have done together to advance what is important to Eastern Washington – especially in the areas of health care and energy.

No matter where I go in Eastern Washington, I continue to hear about the need to make health care more affordable.  Since coming to Congress, I have worked to restore funding for rural health care which is so important to many of our communities in Eastern Washington.  We have worked to bring medical professionals to our small towns, as well as advocated for using technology to help cut down the red tape involved in healthcare, and make it work better for patients.

As we start 2008, I will continue to work to strengthen our community pharmacies which play such a critical role in rural Eastern Washington.  I am a founding member of the Congressional Community Pharmacy Coalition which serves as an advocate for community pharmacy issues.  Last year, I helped empower community pharmacies negotiate drug prices and helped speed up payments from Medicare drug plans to those pharmacies.

As Congress finished its work in 2007, we passed an energy bill that wasn’t perfect but made some strides in reducing our dependence on foreign oil and encouraged the development of renewable energy.  But we can’t stop there.  We need to do more.  We need a comprehensive energy policy that focuses on the fuels available today as we consider the fuels of tomorrow.  In 2008, I will continue to work to ensure that hydropower is classified as a renewable resource.  Nearly 70% of the electricity in Washington State comes from hydropower.

The Northwest is leading the way in developing and implementing those renewable types of energy sources that make economic sense.  Late last year, I visited Avista Utilites’ generating plant in Kettle Falls.  For the past 25 years, it has created jobs and energy by turning wood waste into electricity in an efficient and environmentally friendly manner.  In the Pacific Northwest, innovation is leading the way for the development of many new alternative energy sources.  Developing liquid coal, wind production, ethanol, biodiesel, hydrogen fuel cells, nuclear power and solar energy are among the ways we can reduce or dependence on foreign oil, while creating new markets for Eastern Washington, stimulating the workforce and eventually passing energy savings on to the public. 

Much of our energy policy reflects environmental concerns.  Eastern Washington farmers and ranchers know how important a clean environment is to their livelihoods.  I believe environmental and tax regulations shouldn’t prevent farmers and small business owners from realizing their full potential, or prevent people from passing their farms and businesses down for generations to come.

In 2008, we have some must-pass items.  We need to pass a farm bill that strengthens Eastern Washington farms and rural communities.  I support a farm bill that helps Washington commodity crop growers, specialty crop growers and ranchers.  The farm bill should expand renewable energy efforts, rural development, health information technology and nutrition programs.  I support a bipartisan effort to help keep Eastern Washington farmers competitive.  The farm bill should not become a partisan issue laden with tax increases.

We need to strengthen the role of Fairchild Air Force Base.  A strong military is key to keeping our nation and communities safe.  We need develop a strong immigration policy, including border security, that accommodates the needs of Eastern Washington agriculture while cutting down on illegal immigration and keeping our country safe.  We also need to do more to reform how Congress funds projects, also known as earmarks.  The people of Eastern Washington deserve to know how Congress is spending their tax dollars.  We need a more open and transparent system to shed light on the process and to ensure Congress is spending your money on legitimate projects.

This Congress should pass legislation I introduced that would lock up sex offenders who use the internet to communicate with kids.  It’s time to treat Internet sex predators the same way we would if they targeted children on a playground.  The Internet Sex Offender Prohibition Act of 2007 would lock sex offenders up for 5 to 20 years if they use the Internet to find victims.

Along with visiting constituents during the past few weeks, it was also a special time for my family.  My husband Brian and I enjoyed our first Christmas with our new baby boy, Cole.  Being a new mother makes me even more eager to confront the issues that are important to Eastern Washington today and help solve them for tomorrow.  With your help, I look forward to making that happen.

–By Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers

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